But we still aren’t there yet!
I know I keep ranting and raving about this, but considering that 51 years ago General Dynamics told us that a mission to Mars could be launched in 1975, and yet, we still haven’t gone beyond the moon, it is more than a little disheartening. But then what can one expect when the budget allocated to NASA in 1971 was less than one half of the budget in 1966 and NASA’s funding dropped from 4.41% of the federal budget to 1.61% in a mere five years, and has been on the decline since. (By 1975 it was under 1% and only broke 1% three times since, reaching 1.05% in 1991, before dropping back down to 0.94% in 1994.) In comparison, the defense department consistently gets about 18% of federal spending, which is not only, relatively speaking, about 4 times the amount spent by most countries on defense but 18 times what NASA gets. (I’m not saying the US shouldn’t spend at least as much on defense as anyone else because it should even if your goal is peace as you never want to be caught with your pants down. I am saying that maybe some of that R&D research budget should be redirected to more useful pursuits. We’re running out of rare earth minerals and other raw materials here on earth. Maybe we can mine Mars and, someday, with enough advances in technology, build bio-domes that will allow us to live there as well.)
So what happened 50 years ago today? The Soviet Union launched the Voskhod 1. While the seventh manned Soviet space flight might not be a memorable one for most people, it was the first flight to carry more than one crewman into orbit, the first flight without the use of spacesuits, and the first flight to carry either an engineer or physician into outer space. It also set the manned spacecraft altitude record of 336 km (209 mi). It was another step towards GD’s goal of a manned mission to Mars … which never happened. Sigh.